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Post  Admin on Fri 11 Oct 2013, 10:31 pm

Disturbing the Peace
Matthew 10:34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
A riot took place in Kansas a few years ago; it wasn't in a back alley or a city park—it was in the House of Representatives!
The elected officials started their session as they always did—with prayer—but the man who was asked to pray was Pastor Joe Wright. The provocative words of his prayer caused an uproar in the House. He prayed:
Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that's exactly what we've done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and we have inverted our values.
We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism, and worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery, and
neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice, and shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem, and abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition, and polluted the airwaves with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas and have been ordained by You to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will. I ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wow! What a prayer!
Joe reminded every Representative—and us— that our culture has been deceived, and stands in need of repentance.
He may as well have been pointing a gun at them by the way they responded to his prayer.
Before he had even finished, representatives were flooding the microphones to begin their angry tirades against this pastor. His prayer for pardon and wisdom quickly made its way into national headlines that read something like this: JOE WRIGHT—YOU HAVE UPSET OUR WORLD!
Telling the world that they've given sin respectable names and are in need of a Savior doesn't go over very well. That means they are sinners! Are you willing to upset your world today?
Now go out . . . and disturb the peace!
Prayer Point: Pray for boldness to share the gospel with unbelievers, asking God to give you the kind of passion that Joe Wright, the apostle Paul, and so many others had for sharing their faith, even though it might just upset your own world.
Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 4.
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Post  Admin on Thu 10 Oct 2013, 11:39 pm

Living Dependently
Romans 12:5
So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Unity is not achieved by everyone thinking alike, having the same preference in music, or reading from the same translation of the Bible. Neither is it based on personality, appearance, or social standing. Our unity is built upon the Church's body of truth—the Scriptures. And the Scriptures tell us that we are not to live independently of one another, but dependently, as members of a body. Paul emphasized this point when he said,
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph. 4:14-16).
The question of whether or not someone else is performing his part in the body isn't yours to answer. The key question for you is, "Am I doing my part in building up the body in love?" When every part of the body does its job, the body is not disabled, but coordinated. This is true for the physical body, and is also true for the body of Christ, known as the Church.
If you don't have the use of an arm or leg, you may be in the category known as "Disabled" (or handicapped, in years gone by). In the same way, when a member of the Church cannot, or will not, function as he should, the church becomes disabled and handicapped in ministry. Those who join local churches but refuse to serve in them actually help to create a disabled body.
On the other hand, when members make the commitment to roll up their sleeves and humbly serve one another, the local church becomes more coordinated and more effective.
The truth is, we need each other. Just as eyes can't provide hearing and ears can't provide sight, you and I provide for the rest of the body the gifts which others lack. The Church is in need of what you as an individual bring to it, and there are no excuses for "sitting it out."
One pastor expressed it this way: "You cannot claim to love Jesus Christ and ignore His bride." God is serious about His Church because He purchased her with His precious blood.
If you are not involved in a local church—not using your gifts for the good of the whole body—then you've forgotten how vitally important you are to a healthy, coordinated Body or . . . you've grown complacent and lazy.
If you're faithfully serving the local body where God has placed you, then you're already experiencing the joys of providing "hearing" or "seeing" or "walking" capabilities for your church, and someone is dependent upon you.
All I have to say to you is . . . "Keep it up!"
Prayer Point: If you are uncertain as to how you can most effectively serve your local church, pray that God will reveal to you your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your giftedness. Then pray that He will give you a greater appreciation for the Church, knowing that it is the greatest way in which He is working in the world today.
Extra Refreshment: Read 1 Corinthians 12
Acts of God
In the midst of disaster, these questions resound in the hearts and minds of those who are suffering. In this booklet, Stephen Davey examines the tough questions of suffering and natural disaster. Join him in the quest for answers to life’s difficult questions and discover that the search for strength and security eventually leads all believers to the foot of the throne. Hope in the valley and peace in the storm can be found only in the Sovereign God who rules and reigns over all.
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Post  Admin on Wed 09 Oct 2013, 9:13 pm

Sola Scriptura!
John 17:17 "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."
I believe we are living in an exciting era. It is a period in church history when the debate over the nature and sufficiency of God's Word is once again at the forefront of peoples' minds. We are hearing the rumblings of the sixteenth-century argument of truth versus error—the Reformation cry of "Sola Scriptura" . . . the Scriptures alone! 
In recent years there has been much hullabaloo over the accord that was struck between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Roman Catholic Church. They announced that the issues of the Reformation are no longer divisive issues today.
Oh?
I read an issue of Newsweek magazine with the cover article featuring "The Meaning of Mary: A Struggle over Her Role Grows within the Church." The article read:
There is an incredible surge going on within the Catholic community to have a new dogma made. More than 100,000 signatures are arriving every month in Rome from people around the world who want to see Mary take the next step in a progression of promotions that began in 431, when she was given the title "Mother of God," to 1854, when she was declared sinless, to 1950, when she was declared to have been taken up bodily into heaven instead of dying. Now, the movement is gaining ground to have her formally declared Co-Redeemer.
The article explained that the late Pope John Paul was quite convinced that Mary is the co-redeemer of humanity. In one announcement he made in April, 1997, he postulated:
Having created man "male and female," the Lord also wants to place the New Eve
beside the New Adam [the new Adam being Christ] in the Redemption. Mary, the New Eve, thus becomes a perfect icon of the church. We can therefore turn to the Blessed Virgin, trustfully imploring her aid in the singular role entrusted to her by God, the role of co-operator in the redemption.
What I found interesting is that Newsweek, although a secular magazine, had enough insight to reply, "This view seems to contradict the basic New Testament belief that there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
The core of the Reformation remains—what do the Scriptures say, and are they the final authority?
Whether it's our view of Mary, Purgatory, salvation by faith alone, or any other issue, the church today needs as much reform as it did in the 16th century, and our reformation cry must echo the cry of old: "Sola Scriptura" . . .  the Scriptures alone!
God's Word is the only truth that teaches what is sufficient for faith and practice, and the only truth that answers the question, "What must I do to be saved?"
No matter what century we're in, there is no higher authority on earth than the Scriptures
 . . . alone!
Prayer Point: Pray that God will renew your vigor for studying His Word. If the Bible has become just a collection of stories or characters to you, or a book that you open only on Sundays, pray that God will give you new eyes to see His truth, and a renewed mind to grasp it.
Extra Refreshment: Read 2 Timothy 3.
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Post  Admin on Tue 08 Oct 2013, 1:52 pm

Constantly Abiding
John 15:9
"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love." 
When you desire God; when you talk to Him in prayer; when you privately meditate on His Word; when you relate the events of life to Him; when you praise Him for His delights and His discipline—you are abiding in Him.
If you are a father, you never had to sit down with your son and say, "Okay, son, I want you to watch carefully how I walk, and then I want you to imitate me." No—he shuffles along in your shadow of his own will. 
As a mother, you didn't have to tell your daughter to watch you put on make-up or arrange your hair style.  Oh, no—she's already sneaked into your room and tried it out for herself!  Kids don't need formal lessons to pick up on the way you do things. They learn it by simply abiding with you, by watching you, by imitating you. 
It was Dr. Alexander Graham Bell who advised the parents of a little girl named Helen to send for a teacher from the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts. Johanna Sullivan had graduated as valedictorian of her class, triumphing over her impoverished past—her mother's death when Anne was eight years old; her abusive father's abandonment two years later; four years in the state almshouse, where her only sibling died.  Life for the nineteen- year-old had been difficult.  A year after her graduation, she was chosen for the task of instructing six-year-old Helen Keller, a blind deaf-mute. Anne's success was monumental. 
After weeks of arduous work, Helen was able to realize that the sign language letters Annie pressed into her hand spelled the name of objects. Two years later, Helen was reading and writing Braille fluently. At the age of ten, she learned different sounds by placing her fingers on her teacher's throat and feeling the vibrations.  When Helen went to college, Annie Sullivan spelled every lecture into Helen's hand.  While Helen earned the degree, Annie received a college education, too. 
When Annie died in 1936, after fifty years of companionship to Helen, the sorrowing woman wrote these endearing words about the person who had become her eyes, her ears, and her mouth: 
My teacher is so near to me that I scarcely think of myself apart from her. I feel that her being is inseparable from my own, and that the footsteps of my life are in hers. All the best of me belongs to her—there is not a talent or an inspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch. 
In many ways, what Anne Sullivan was for Helen Keller, Jesus Christ wants to be for us. He desires to be our eyes, our ears, our mouth. He promises to be our friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), but we must be dependent upon Him . . . as dependent as Helen Keller was on Anne Sullivan. 
When we abide [dwell, stay, continue] in Christ, people will see the evidence written all over us. We will imitate His character and share His perspective. 
Abiding in Christ is not a list of rules—it is a way of life . . . for the Christian.
Prayer Point: Seek the Lord right now as you would your closest friend. Cry out to Him with your distresses and afflictions; thank Him for His many blessings, and praise Him for always being a faithful companion, even in the times when you are not.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 27.

The God of All Comfort
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
My wife and I had the privilege of meeting Joni Erickson Tada, the Christian author who was paralyzed from the neck down as a young lady. In the early years after her diving accident, she wrote about coming to terms with the fact that God's plan for her life was to remain paralyzed.
In one of her books, A Step Further, she wrote:
On a rainy afternoon in the early summer of 1972, about fifteen people gathered in a tiny oak church not far from my home. The group consisted of close friends, family, and church leaders whom I had called together to pray for my healing. By the time our brief service was over, the rain had stopped. Exiting through the front doors of the church, we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow in the misty distance. It gave me just one more reassurance that God had heard our prayers. God had indeed heard . . . but He did not heal.
Those who have heard Joni speak have been struck by the peace of Christ that emanates from her face and through her testimony. She is an example to us all of the fact that we can trust God even when times are hard. She has devoted the remainder of her life to reminding believers that, even when God chooses to give sickness instead of health, His plan is always perfect. Even when it doesn't feel good, His will is always perfect.
During my college years I had a friend who went on a hike one night with a group of adventurous young people. Unable to see clearly what lay ahead, he literally walked off the edge of a steep cliff.  Though he survived the fall, he was paralyzed from the waist down.
Today Scott Mitchell is the founding pastor of a thriving church in Atlanta, Georgia, believing that, if it hadn't been for that fall, he would not be the man he is today. He now spends his life and ministry sharing with suffering believers the comfort he experienced from God during that trial.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians that this is the very reason for some of our afflictions—that we may be able to comfort others who are afflicted. Therefore the question we should ask during times of suffering is not, "Lord, will You please get me out of this?" but, "Lord, will You show me who I can help through this?"
Everyone in the world is suffering in some way, but not everyone has experienced the comfort that God offers in the midst of it. Follow the examples of Paul, Joni Erickson Tada, and my friend, Scott, who made the decision to use their afflictions for good . . . to comfort others.
Prayer Point: Consider an area of trial in your own life, whether it is physical illness, emotional pain, family strife, etc., and thank the Lord for allowing you to go through it. Then pray that God will bring someone across your path who is going through a similar trial and needs comforting.
Extra Refreshment: Read 2 Corinthians 1
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Post  Admin on Fri 04 Oct 2013, 10:17 pm

The Guise of Godliness
1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
I have never had a State Highway patrolman stop me and say, "Sorry to bother you, sir, but I just wanted to commend you for coming to a complete stop at that stop sign back there . . . here's fifty dollars—have a nice day!"
Nor have I been pulled over by an officer who said to me: "Hey, I noticed you were keeping the speed limit even when you were going down that steep hill. I thought that was pretty remarkable of you to do that, so I want to give you these gift certificates to the Mall . . . so long!"
This will probably never happen . . . you think?
Truth is, those who abide by the law will often be viewed by men as the "godly" ones. It happened in Jesus' day with the Pharisees and Sadducees; they deceived men, as well as themselves, into thinking that their own good works were enough to make them righteous before a Holy God. They fully expected God to shower them with gift certificates to the bazaar!
Although it is important to obey the law, it isn't the real test of godliness. Actually, it's possible for you to keep the speed limit and still be an ungodly person. It's possible to stop at all the stop signs, hold the door for women, chew with your mouth closed, clock-in to work five minutes early every morning, and perform good deeds galore—and still be completely unholy in your heart.
Although everyone may sing your praises, the question is: what does God see when He looks at your heart?
God reminded Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7 that man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Even today, God is the only one who sees past the gimmicks—the facade, the clothes, the make-up—directly into the heart of every person.
The encouragement of this truth rests in the fact that, because God sees the secret intents and motives of every person's heart, He actually does reward those who keep their hearts pure. Though the world may often get it wrong and may praise deceptive people, God never will.
The world rewards people of influence; God rewards people of integrity . . . and our reward is just ahead.
Prayer Point: Expose your heart before God and ask Him to cleanse you of all the things you have done recently for the eyes of men, rather than  the eyes of God.
Extra Refreshment: Read Matthew 6:1-24.
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Post  Admin on Thu 03 Oct 2013, 10:00 pm

Bar the Gates!
Romans 6:13
Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
John Bunyan, one of history's greatest Christian authors, wrote the story of a fierce battle to take control of a city from its rightful ruler.  This famous allegory, Bunyan's second most popular work, is entitled The Holy War. His depiction of the human soul is a city, Mansoul,  with five gates: Ear Gate, Eye Gate, Nose Gate, Feel Gate, and Mouth Gate.
The enemy of the city is Sin, who comes on a daily basis to attack at one of its five gates. Sin speaks to the Ear Gate; he presents vivid, alluring pictures to the Eye Gate; he tempts the other "Gates" as well.
The interesting thing about this battle is that Mansoul could never be defeated by outside attacks, and Sin could never win in his assaults against the five gates . . . except in one way:  someone on the inside had to open one of the gates and let Sin in.
In reality, these five gates are not Bunyan's allegorical creations at all—they are for real! Bunyan had grasped what both Paul and Peter understood:  that the soul of man is destroyed from the inside, not the outside.
This is why Paul urged the believers to stop presenting their members to sin. The word presenting in this verse is a military term, used in the transferring of weaponry or arms. Paul was actually saying, "Don't let the enemy use your body as his weapon. Don't let the enemy have your rifle or your sword so he can use it against you! Don't leave yourself unarmed . . . don't open the gates!"
Unquestionably, you cannot be a holy child of God while allowing your eyes to feast on unholy scenes. Most of today's new film releases contain scenes of adultery or fornication. It is a fact, according to recent statistics, that over ninety percent of all sexual content in the average film is between unmarried people or people who are married to someone else.
If you choose to watch sin on the big screen, whether in a theater or your family room,  you have just opened the Eye Gate and invited Sin to come in.
If Sin can't get through one gate, he will try another.  So, what are the lyrics to your favorite songs, and the lifestyle of your favorite artists? Most secular music today is filled with the same perversion that you see on the screen; merely listening to it may be as deadly as watching it . . . keep the Ear Gate closed!
You are in a Holy War, Christian, just as John Bunyan said. And you may be your own worst enemy! Sin is pounding at each Gate, but he can only come in if you allow him entrance. Sin can't win the battle from the outside.
Don't betray your Mansoul!  By all means, reinforce the boundaries . . . fortify the walls . . . bar the Gates!
Prayer Point: Thank God for His available strength to enable your battle against the onslaught of sin. Ask Him to bring to mind any area of your senses where you might be allowing sin to gain entrance into the city of your soul. Confess the treason against His holiness and ask Him for strength to close the Gate and lock it tight.
Extra Refreshment: Read 2 Peter 3.
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Post  Admin on Tue 01 Oct 2013, 9:29 pm

Dressed for War
Ephesians 6:11
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
In World War II, as Germany prepared to invade Poland, the Poles readied themselves for battle. They were experienced warriors with a long history of repelling enemy attacks from  barbarian neighbors. The Polish army was renowned for its skilled horsemanship—the Cavalry was well-trained and their horses were among Europe's finest steeds.
When it was learned that German forces were advancing, twelve brigades of their finest Cavalry were prepared. With swords flashing in the sunlight, the officers sounded the charge and their horses surged forward with powerful strides. Remember the time frame—World War II.
In his biography of Winston Churchill, Manchester wrote that the Cavalry galloped into oncoming, newly-designed German panzer tanks. The outcome was predictable—total annihilation! Horsemen with swords battled iron tanks.
I'm convinced that we, as believers, often expect to take on the enemy of our soul with methods similar to that of galloping on horseback at full speed, heading into the path of an oncoming tank division.
Even worse, we enter our daily activity without so much as a thought that we have an enemy who is on a search-and-destroy mission. Satan seeks to deceive, to distract, and to defeat any attempt by Christians who desire to advance the kingdom of light and the glory of the Prince of Heaven.
Paul warned us that the battle would be fierce. But in Ephesians 6, he tells us how to dress for war: 
Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
So . . . are you properly prepared for battle? You can't go against tanks on horseback! In the same way, you can't resist the enemy of your soul armed with an hour of church, a blessing before meals, and a prayer at bedtime. You are to clothe yourself in a warrior's armor which has been designed by God for the dangers of daily, state-of-the-art battle.
Get dressed for combat . . . today!
Prayer Point: Pray through this passage, mentally putting on each piece of armor and asking the Lord for His strength to wage war with the temptations of life.
Extra Refreshment: Read Ephesians 6:19-24.
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Post  Admin on Mon 30 Sep 2013, 7:40 pm

The Aisle Seat
John 13:34-35
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Rebecca Pippert, in her fascinating book entitled Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World, told the story of her arrival in Portland, Oregon, where she met Bill, one of the students on the campus where she served. He was a brilliant young man with messy hair and, as she recalls, he was perpetually shoeless. From outward appearances he was a little strange, but inwardly he was inquisitive and incredibly bright.
One day Bill decided to attend a middle-class church that was across the street from the campus. He walked into this church of well-dressed people in his tattered jeans, tee shirt, and, of course, barefooted. In truth, this was the first time he'd ever been inside a church sanctuary.
People looked a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything as Bill walked down the aisle looking for a seat. The church was quite crowded that Sunday, and as he came to the front pew he realized there were no seats left. So without any hesitation, he sat down on the carpet in the middle of the aisle, the same way he sat when his Christian friends invited him as they met for Bible study. He casually crossed his legs and waited for the service to begin.
The tension was palpable as people murmured, craning their necks to see the stranger in the aisle. Then one of the elderly deacons—a man who was well-respected in the church—began walking down the aisle toward the student. Rebecca's friends who witnessed this scene told her that they whispered to each other, "Well, you can't exactly blame him for scolding the guy . . . he is a disruption to the service!"
As the well-groomed deacon neared Bill, the church was deathly quiet. All eyes were glued front and center to see what would happen next. With some difficulty, the old man lowered himself to the floor and sat down next to Bill. He crossed his legs and shared his hymnal with the college-aged boy. The crowd was stunned.
That Sunday the deacon not only worshiped there on the floor, but he reminded the congregation how to worship.
Jesus Christ considers us His representatives on earth and we are to win the world for Him. How? Bribe them? . . . threaten them? . . . scare them? . . . debate them? No!
We are to show them the love of Christ by showing them our love for each other; we are to reflect the character of Christ to those around us.
Unbelievers may rebuff your message, refute your argument, and reject your faith, but they can't deny your loving spirit toward them.
So, be on the lookout for aisle seats. You never know when you'll be in the perfect place to serve up a heaping helping of "loving spirit" . . . for the glory of Christ.
Prayer Point: Pray for humility; think of others as you go through this day, and try to love those in the world as God loves them.
Extra Refreshment: Luke 10:30-37 tells the story of the good Samaritan, an illustration of the kind of love God wants us to practice.
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Post  Admin on Mon 30 Sep 2013, 5:18 pm

Breaking a Spiritual Sweat
1 Timothy 4:7-8
But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Godly living is not a sport; it's hard work. It isn't something you do when you feel like it, or if you have some spare time for it, or if you are naturally good at it.
Paul said to train yourself for godliness. The word train is gumnazo, from which we get our word gymnasium. That is, Paul was saying to his son in the faith, "Timothy, go into the gymnasium of the Word and work up a sweat. In fact, if you're not breaking a spiritual sweat, you're probably not working at it hard enough."
Later in the same paragraph, Paul tells Timothy that this godliness is something for which we labor and strive (1 Timothy 4:10). The Greek word for labor is the root of our word agonize.
Imagine—Paul speaks of gaining godliness with words like "agonizing" and "training," just as an athlete would train and push himself to run a race. Actually, Paul uses that very analogy in a different letter wherein he says, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it"
(1 Corinthians 9:24). Consequently, godliness only comes as we train, agonize, and then run with all our strength.
I have heard people say, "I don't read the Bible because it's too hard to understand"; "I don't pray like I ought to because that has never come easy for me"; "I'd like to memorize Scripture but it takes forever." Christian growth requires spiritual sweat!
One of the greatest running backs in NFL history died at the age of forty-five. Walter Payton's skill and ability when he received the ball in his hands was legendary. When he retired after the 1987 season, he was the all-time leader in rushing yards. Though his on-field exploits impressed his fellow players, it was his off-season training which elevated him to iconic status in their eyes. Besides weight lifting, his daily routine included running near the Pearl River in Mississippi. He ran through the sand (65 yards of beach) or up the levee (a 45-degree slope).
For his legacy, Payton didn't want his statistics to be the focus, impressive as they were. "I want to be remembered," he said, "for giving it my all."
May we be men and women who "give it our all" for something far more lasting than a football game—let's train, and agonize, and run after, and with . . . godliness!
Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to forgive you for excusing apathy and the lack of discipline in regard to spiritual matters such as prayer, Bible reading/study, and memorization. Thank Him for His patience with you as you've taken time to learn that these disciplines are called "spiritual disciplines" because they require—discipline.
Extra Refreshment: Read and memorize 1 Timothy 4:7-8. This will not only refresh your heart but advance you another step in your spiritual discipline!
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Post  Admin on Fri 27 Sep 2013, 10:39 pm

Persecution—It's a Promise!
2 Timothy 3:12
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
We are presenting a distorted message to the world when we try to make Christianity synonymous with health, wealth, and prosperity, while hiding the crux of Christianity—the cross. Discipleship is impossible without the cross, and following Christ is all about bearing it.
Pat Robertson is a man who teaches the distorted health-and-wealth message, deceiving many. In his book, The Secret Kingdom, he urges Christians to employ what he calls "the laws of prosperity to which God Himself is bound," and writes: "It's a bit like tuning in to a radio or television station: you get on the right frequency and you pick up the program."
But what about those believers who are never healed of their diseases, nor get the financial miracle they are hoping for? According to Robertson, they "have either failed to grasp the points we have been making about the operation of the kingdom, or they are not living according to the principles we have been exploring."
Michael Horton, a reformed theologian, wrote a scathing rebuke of Robertson's "prosperity theology" in his book entitled Made in America. He wrote:
The gospel is now consumer-centered, rather than God-centered. It is as if God must be justified before the sinner; now it is the unbeliever who has to be satisfied with God and His terms . . . and so we package our gospel in attractive terms and with attractive promises . . .
Oh, how far our generation has fallen from the "true theology" modeled by our forefathers of the faith. Hebrews 11:36-38 says:
And others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawn in two, tempted, put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated . . . wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
Evidently they hadn't tuned in to the laws of prosperity nor found the right frequency! The twisted prosperity theology of Robertson, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, and a multitude of others, is truly a theology that has been "made in America"—consumer-oriented, consumer-driven. Instead of Sovereign God, we have sovereign man. If we discover the "key" to success, God will hand over the goods. Embedded in this false teaching is the tragic heresy that if mankind isn't happy, then God isn't a just God.
Are you following Christ out of consumer-driven motives? Are you expecting Him to bless you with more material things as a reward for wearing a cross on your necklace or having a fish sticker on your bumper? If you believe the text for today, you know that God has promised the opposite of health and wealth in this life—He's promised persecution to those who live godly in Christ Jesus.
The god of many televangelists is not the God of the Gospel. Don't tune in to the wrong channel . . . stay on His frequency!
Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to give you a willingness to accept whatever state you're in—whether poverty or prosperity. If you are prospering, pray that you will not trust Christ less; if you are struggling to make ends meet, pray that you will trust Christ more.
Extra Refreshment: Read Romans 8, where Paul describes the beauty of the "true" gospel, and reminds suffering believers where their hope is found.
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Post  Admin on Thu 26 Sep 2013, 8:53 pm

The Aisle Seat
John 13:34-35
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Rebecca Pippert, in her fascinating book entitled Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World, told the story of her arrival in Portland, Oregon, where she met Bill, one of the students on the campus where she served. He was a brilliant young man with messy hair and, as she recalls, he was perpetually shoeless. From outward appearances he was a little strange, but inwardly he was inquisitive and incredibly bright.
One day Bill decided to attend a middle-class church that was across the street from the campus. He walked into this church of well-dressed people in his tattered jeans, tee shirt, and, of course, barefooted. In truth, this was the first time he'd ever been inside a church sanctuary.
People looked a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything as Bill walked down the aisle looking for a seat. The church was quite crowded that Sunday, and as he came to the front pew he realized there were no seats left. So without any hesitation, he sat down on the carpet in the middle of the aisle, the same way he sat when his Christian friends invited him as they met for Bible study. He casually crossed his legs and waited for the service to begin.
The tension was palpable as people murmured, craning their necks to see the stranger in the aisle. Then one of the elderly deacons—a man who was well-respected in the church—began walking down the aisle toward the student. Rebecca's friends who witnessed this scene told her that they whispered to each other, "Well, you can't exactly blame him for scolding the guy . . . he is a disruption to the service!"
As the well-groomed deacon neared Bill, the church was deathly quiet. All eyes were glued front and center to see what would happen next. With some difficulty, the old man lowered himself to the floor and sat down next to Bill. He crossed his legs and shared his hymnal with the college-aged boy. The crowd was stunned.
That Sunday the deacon not only worshiped there on the floor, but he reminded the congregation how to worship.
Jesus Christ considers us His representatives on earth and we are to win the world for Him. How? Bribe them? . . . threaten them? . . . scare them? . . . debate them? No!
We are to show them the love of Christ by showing them our love for each other; we are to reflect the character of Christ to those around us.
Unbelievers may rebuff your message, refute your argument, and reject your faith, but they can't deny your loving spirit toward them.
So, be on the lookout for aisle seats. You never know when you'll be in the perfect place to serve up a heaping helping of "loving spirit" . . . for the glory of Christ.
Prayer Point: Pray for humility; think of others as you go through this day, and try to love those in the world as God loves them.
Extra Refreshment: Luke 10:30-37 tells the story of the good Samaritan, an illustration of the kind of love God wants us to practice.
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Post  Admin on Wed 25 Sep 2013, 9:41 pm

A Matter of Life and Death
John 3:36
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
Perhaps you saw the news of the tragic fire in Colorado some years ago. The headline of a USA Today article called it the "Colorado Tragedy," and a tragedy it indeed was. It was not only a tragedy because twelve men died in the fire, but because their deaths were brought about by one wrong decision.
The article related that firefighters carry in their belt pouches a blanket called a shelter. It consists of thin cloth-like layers of aluminum foil and glass glued together, less than an inch thick, and weighs about three pounds. It can be opened, allowing the firefighter to lie under it when the flames get too close. This wonderful invention has saved the lives of many firemen, but in this case, it cost them their lives.
The inferno that raged on Storm Mountain that dreadful Wednesday afternoon took an unexpected turn; the firefighters had successfully contained the blaze to less than fifty acres when all of a sudden, monstrous gusts of wind whipped it back into a fury, spreading the flames over two thousand acres in less than five hours. Many of the men were trapped. One firefighter recalled the event and said that without warning, the forest just exploded. The article reads:
With just seconds to outwit the fires, some firefighters ran back through walls of flame to burned-out, spent ground. They were among the thirty-eight who lived. But at least nine who died had tried to climb into their shelters, in the path of the fire, and found them insufficient shields against suffocating flames and heat. One firefighter summarized it this way, "The guys who used their shelters died; those who ran back into and through the wall of fire to ground that was already burned, lived.
When I read this, I couldn't help but think of humanity running for its life before the flames of eternal judgment. Many people carry their little shelters of religion, good works, baptism, money, or morality, but these shields will not be enough to withstand the heat of God's holy wrath.
The only ones who will live are those who run to scorched ground—ground where the fires of God's wrath have already burned. That ground is none other than Jesus Christ, who has taken upon Himself the wrath of God so that all those who stand "in Christ" will be saved.
Have you made the decision to follow Christ, or are you still hiding beneath your own shelter of misguided whims and ideas? Don't wait another second to make that choice.
It's a matter of life... and death!
Prayer Point: If you are already a believer in Christ, thank Him for taking your punishment on the cross and for offering to you His righteousness in return. If you are not yet a believer in Christ, you can accept Him right now. Simply confess that you are a sinner, believe that Christ paid the penalty for your sin on the cross, rose again from the grave and offers forgiveness for all your sin. Receive His free gift of salvation and commit your life to His authority.
Extra Refreshment: Read the entire chapter of John 3, where God's immense love for the lost world is revealed.
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Post  Admin on Tue 24 Sep 2013, 10:43 pm

The Right Answer
Romans 10:9-10
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
In 1955, a dance instructor and manager of an Arthur Murray Studio in Tampa had wearily turned in just before dawn on Sunday morning, after an almost-all-night dance party. He set his clock radio to awaken him to music at the appointed time, but was jarred wide awake by a voice that sounded as if it were thundering right out of heaven. It was the weekly broadcast of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, a Philadelphia pastor and one of the first great radio evangelists.
Jim got out of bed to change the station, but before he reached the radio, the preacher stopped him with a question that set him back on the edge of the bed: "Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God, and He were to ask you, ‘What right do you have to enter into My heaven?'—what would you say?"
Jim was dumbfounded! He continued to listen to the explanation of the plan of redemption through faith in Christ—a message he had never heard before. On that remarkable Sunday afternoon, Jim made the transition from presumption to truth. He had presumed that he was good enough to make it into heaven; he didn't realize that he was calling God a liar—God, who says, "There is none good, no not one." He knew he would never make it!
That week he stopped by a corner newsstand and asked if they sold religious books. The owner had only one, The Greatest Story Ever Told. Each night Jim read a portion, and when he completed the book, it seemed as if the cross of Christ had been erected right in his apartment. He slipped out of his chair onto his knees and asked Christ to come into his heart and forgive him and cleanse him of his sins . . . he found the answer.
By the way, Jim's name was D. James Kennedy. He was founder and pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, founder of Knox Theological Seminary, as well as the international evangelism ministry called "Evangelism Explosion," training people in every country of the world, showing them how to share the gospel, asking that famous question.
What would your answer be today? Why do you think you're going to heaven? What right do you have to ever think you could live for eternity in the presence of God's glory? Do you have an answer?
There is only one way. You must travel on that bridge fashioned in the form of an old rugged cross—the eternal bridge between earth and heaven, between corruption and consummation, between religion and redemption. This is the bridge built by our Redeemer, and no religious acts or good deeds will allow you to walk across it. Heaven is on the other side for all who are willing to come by Christ's finished work alone.
If you have already believed in Christ for salvation, then ask yourself this question: "God is at work in the world around me; am I taking part in it? Is there someone in my life to whom I should pose this life-changing, eternity-destined question? If so, what are you waiting for?
Today is someone's day of salvation; go . . . ask the question!
Prayer Point: We have been offered the most precious gift by our Savior, Jesus Christ. As Romans 12:1 says, it is our "reasonable service" to give our lives completely to Him in response to His mercy. Ask God to begin to show you, through prayer and the reading of His Word, how you can best take part in the work of spreading the gospel.
Extra Refreshment: Read 1 Timothy 1—a reminder that God saves sinners, not good people.
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Post  Admin on Mon 23 Sep 2013, 10:20 pm

Let the Confession Begin!
Proverbs 28:13
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
The term "priorities" used to be referred to only in the singular form—priority. It was "set your priority straight," not priorities.  Today we have many priorities, and I'm afraid we're a lot like Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's. When asked by The New York Times what he believed in, he responded by saying, "God, my family, and McDonald's hamburgers." Afterwards he added, "And when I get to the office, I reverse the order."
The problem is a universal one, and all humans, whether Christian or not, will be forced to deal with it. It is a problem called pride; we not only deceive others by it—we deceive ourselves.
This is how it usually comes down:  because of pride, you go to church on Sunday and look and act like a Christian—everyone thinks you're an upright citizen. Then, like Ray Kroc, you go to your workplace on Monday and look and act like an unbeliever—your co-workers think you're an okay guy.  In reality, you're the farthest thing from either description!
"Confession is the road to healing," as one songwriter once said, and it is the cure to self-deception. We all would like to think that we're good people, or at least better than average—certainly not as bad as the other guy! The truth is, just because we're saved doesn't mean we're perfect.
Consider the examples God gives us in His Word: Old Testament figures were saved by their faith in the promise of the coming Messiah: Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samson, David, and many others.  In the New Testament, there is one who stands out from all who followed Christ: Simon Peter.  These men of God faltered in their walk of faith—floundered in the sea of sin—failed God, themselves, and others.  Yet . . . all repented and regained their testimonies with God and men, and six of them are listed in the Bible's "Hall of Faith" chapter, Hebrews 11.
Perhaps the world has to see us admit our sins and confess our wrong doings before they will be able to see their own need for confession and repentance. Christ died for sinners, and when sinners who have been saved reach out to sinners who are still lost, conversions will be the result.
Some people will hate us because of our message, as Christ promised in the gospel of John, but others will come to Christ through our transparency and love.
The point is simple—don't be a Pharisee. Never stop confessing your sin to God and to others, and never stop telling the world of their need for Christ's love and mercy, for "all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) . . . and that includes you.
Prayer Point: Confess your sins to God right now, and ask Him to reveal the people to whom you need to make reconciliation. Then, pray for humility to confess your wrong, knowing that God is glorified when you do.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalm 51—David's prayer of confession after sinning greatly against the Lord.
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Post  Admin on Fri 20 Sep 2013, 7:23 pm

Why Pray?
Psalm 86:6-7
Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; and give heed to the voice of my supplications! In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You, for You will answer me.
R. A. Torrey, a former president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, once wrote ten powerful reasons why believers should pray:
There is a devil and prayer is the God-appointed means of resisting him.
Prayer is God's way for us to obtain what we need from Him.
The apostles, whom God set forth to be a pattern for us, considered prayer to be the most important business of their lives.
Prayer occupied a prominent place and played a very important part in the earthly life of our Lord.
Prayer is the most important part of the present ministry of our Lord, since He is now interceding for us.
Prayer is the means God has appointed for our receiving mercy from Him and obtaining grace to help in time of need.
Prayer is the means of obtaining the fullness of God's joy.
Prayer with thanksgiving is the means of obtaining freedom from anxiety, and in anxiety's place is peace which passes understanding.
Prayer is the means by which we are to keep watchful and be alert at Christ's return.
Prayer is used by God to promote our spiritual growth, bring power into our work, lead others to faith in Christ, and bring all other blessings to Christ's church.
In other words, the question should not be why should we pray, but how can we afford not to pray?
Just look at that list! It is not exhaustive, by the way. All one needs to do is look into a few of the Psalms to find that prayer should be the most vital part of a believer's life. Just as a wife cannot have a good relationship with her husband without speaking, so also a believer cannot have a good relationship with God if there is no communication. Prayer is how we talk to God, and His Word is how He speaks to us.
 
It baffles me how shallow our view of prayer has become in the church today. Think about our own perspective: when there is a crisis with a family member—a child is rushed to ICU; your father has a heart attack; your sibling is experiencing depression—what is the first thing that believers often say in these circumstances? "Well, I guess all I can do now is pray."
 
I can't tell you how many times I've heard that in these past few years; I've said it myself.  I don't know where this "last-resort" idea comes from, but it is terribly wrong.
 
Prayer isn't the last thing—it's the best thing that you and I could ever do for anyone.
 
He's listening . . . are you praying?
 
Prayer Point: 1 Peter 5 says to "cast our anxiety upon the Lord, for He cares for us." Thank God for never turning a deaf ear to your call to Him, and for always listening to your supplication.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read John 17—the prayer of Jesus.

Comforting Arms
Matthew 5:4
 
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
 
There is a vivid memory etched in my mind—a day when one of my sons hugged a tree in our back yard. The tree had a "ladder" of nails driven into it, and he used them for climbing. I was about fifty yards away, watching and admiring the athletic prowess of my son, as he hung from the first branch eight feet from the ground. But his foot slipped off the nail and I saw his body swivel around to the other side of the tree.

As he held on to the trunk with one arm and wrapped a leg around the tree, he yelled for help. I began walking toward the tree, but in his moment of distress, he didn't wait for me to arrive. Typical of the very young, he hadn't yet discovered that sometimes it hurts more to let go than to hang on, so—he released his hold on the branch. He slid down the trunk and skinned himself on every nail protruding from the tree.  A long bloody gash stretched from his waist to his chest.
 
He hit the ground, immediately bounded up, and came running.  His feet were moving so fast that he even fell once as he ran. When he reached me, he leapt into my arms and began to wail. I just held him and hugged him, because I knew he was experiencing more pain than he had ever felt before. Although I am not a great father—in fact, sometimes, I'm not even a good father—I did what comes naturally to any parent witnessing his child in pain . . . I  comforted him.
 
Why is it that we think God will do any less for His children? Why is it that we think God groans when He sees us coming to Him in pain?  We assume He is thinking, "Oh, no . . . you're hurt again?" If we, as fallen, sinful, earthly parents can comfort our children in times of distress, whatever the cause, how much more will our perfect heavenly Father comfort us in our distress—whatever the cause?
 
 The word for comfort in Matthew 5:4 is not sympathy, which means to feel with, or empathy, which means to have experienced the same thing and feel with, but a combination of two Latin words which mean to put strength in; to infuse with power.
 
This means that God doesn't just pat us on the back when we are in mourning; He gives us what we need to endure the pain of sadness. It's as David said in Psalm 138:3, "On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul."
 
Have you fallen from any trees lately?  God will lift you up—blood, tears and all. So go ahead . . . wail to Him in your sorrow; cry to Him in your distress; jump into His arms of healing. 
 
Your Father is waiting to hold you close to Him.  Then you will learn what Christ meant when He said, "Blessed are those who mourn . . .  for they shall be comforted."
 
Prayer Point: Perhaps you are bleeding today from some emotional gash, and are in need of a giant "bear-hug" from God. Be encouraged, friend! God says in Scripture that you can cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you. No matter how great or small your concern, God will give you the strength to deal with it.

Extra Refreshment: Read 1 Peter 5.
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Post  Admin on Tue 17 Sep 2013, 2:21 pm

To Enjoy Is to Exult!
Romans 5:11
And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
To exult in God is the greatest of all human activities. The Westminster Shorter Catechism put it this way: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."
Are you enjoying God?
Paul reminds us that we have not only been saved from the penalty of sin and from the wrath of God, but we have been saved for the praise of our Savior and for the worship of God.
If only Christians today could resound with praise to the true and living God with the same fervency as the pagans did to their goddess, Diana, in the ancient city of Ephesus!  The world then would see passionate worship in our lives, hear it from our lips, and behold it on our faces. Our translation from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of light evidences a joy to the watching world.  If only we enjoyed God more!
I read a humorous story of an occurrence on a train coming from Princeton.  The conductor came down the aisle punching tickets, and held out his hand to the next passenger. Albert Einstein reached into his vest pocket—no ticket. Neither could he find it in the other pocket, nor his briefcase, nor the seat cushion of the bench next to him. The conductor finally offered, "Dr. Einstein, I know who you are . . . we all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket, so don't worry about it."
Einstein nodded, but didn't seem relieved. As the conductor prepared to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the brilliant physicist down on his hands and knees, looking under his seat.  Rushing back, the conductor said, "Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein—don't worry! You don't need a ticket; it's not a problem." Einstein looked at him and said, "Sir, the problem isn't whether you know who I am— the problem is I can't remember where I'm going!"
Perhaps if we would remember that our "ticket" of salvation was bought with such a costly price; that we have been reconciled to God; that our final destination is an eternity of joy spent with God—then we would be able to "exult in God" with a passion that the world could neither match nor explain.
So rejoice in God, my friend! Your ticket has already been punched . . . you're on your way to your final destination!
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for the glorious gospel which has not only erased your past, but has given you a new future. Praise God like you've never praised Him before, knowing that you could never praise Him enough.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 98 and Psalms 100 if you need an example of exuberant worship.

Confession, Cleansing, and Conversion
1 John 1:9-10
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
In 1971, a revival came to many churches in Western Canada. It made news in the secular press because of the number of people who journeyed to stores and other businesses to make restitution for their past sins.
Whether it was paying delinquent income tax, admitting dishonesty in business dealings, or going to the border to confess they had lied about goods brought over from the States—hundreds of people were willing to do anything to be fully right with God and man. One author writing about the incident recorded:
When these Christians displayed such a desire for righteousness, the world both admired and hated them. On the one hand, people were thankful that  Christians had the courage to make past wrongs right; but on the other hand they deeply resented such integrity. For in the process of seeing righteousness at work in the lives of others, they saw their own hidden sins exposed.
The Bible describes two very different kinds of Christians: those who claim the name of Christ but refuse to live for Him, and those who not only claim the name of Christ, but live for Him as well. The hypocritical Christian is loved by the world because he gives people all the more reason to castigate the church and call it "that bunch of hypocrites"; it actually makes them feel good about themselves. The distinctive Christian, however, is hated by the world because he exposes the world for what it really is—fallen and sinful.
True Christianity is like the glass of a mirror. Not only do we reflect the glory of God to the world, but we show the world its marred image, exposing all its defects and its attempts to hide the blemishes.
This is why we must confess our sins constantly to God and to others, not only to renew our fellowship with Christ, but to show the world where our true identity lies. Indeed this is one of the greatest witnessing tools that you and I have—to live repentant lives before men.
Will you sin? Yes. Will you struggle at times with sin? Absolutely. Will the world notice it? You bet they will. But then, to their shock, they hear from you an apology . . . confessions . . . attempts to make restitution. In so doing, you declare to the world the message of the gospel: People sin . . . but there is a Savior!
Prayer Point: Ask God to reveal any sin in your life that you are hiding, or may not even recognize.  After confessing it to Him, pray for the strength needed to change. Is there anyone who needs an apology from you? Is there restitution that you should make? Ask the Lord for courage to make amends and set the record straight.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 32—a prayer of repentance and restoration.
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Post  Admin on Fri 13 Sep 2013, 9:25 pm

The Gift of Pain
Revelation 21:3-4
 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
Many people believe that pain is God's one mistake.  Pain usually gets bad press, but have you ever considered that a wise God created us with an ability to feel pain for a reason?  
Dr. Paul Brand knew physical pain is a gift. As he studied the suffering of people infected with Hansen's disease—leprosy—he came to the conclusion that, at least in some cases, pain is vital to our survival.
While the word leprosy may conjure up images of stubby fingers and toes, ulcerated wounds, and distorted facial features, it is not the direct cause for these conditions. Because of pain deprivation, leprosy causes its victims to inadvertently destroy parts of their own bodies. Hansen's disease acts as an anesthetic, numbing the pain cells of hands, feet, eyes, ears, and nose.
While most diseases are feared because of their pain, Hansen's is deadly because its victims feel no pain. According to Dr. Brand, the destruction of facial features and limbs follows because the warning system of pain is gone.
In African and Asian villages where Dr. Brand worked, lepers reached directly into fire to retrieve a dropped potato. Patients at the hospital in India worked, gripping a shovel with a protruding nail; extinguished a burning wick with bare hands; stepped on broken glass. They simply couldn't feel the warning signals telling them to stop. 
No wonder Dr. Brand concluded his findings by saying, "Thank God for inventing pain." Pain is both an essential and unavoidable part of life; the art of living is learning how to respond to pain. God uses pain in several ways: to correct us—"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:71); to construct us—". . . tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance,  proven character" (Romans 5:3b-4a).
Pain, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, communicates a clear message: something isn't right! The loss of a loved one, a job, physical ability, or any other type of earthly pain has been caused by Adam's sin in the garden, as well as our own sin.
But there is the remainder of the verse in Romans 5:4 that says, ". . . and proven character [produces] hope."  Our perspective has to go beyond our lives—it has to stretch out into eternity.  That gave the Apostle Peter hope and joy: 
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).
God has promised to set everything right; let God's gift complete its perfect work!  And while you wait, give Him glory—while you suffer, honor Him.  While you get that which you don't want—and don't get what you do want—exult in Him alone. God isn't finished . . . yet.
 
Prayer Point: Pray for strength to face the trials that stand in your way, and to withstand the painful consequences of living in a sin-struck world. Then thank God for the "hope" of eternal life.

Extra Refreshment: Read Revelation 21.
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Post  Admin on Thu 12 Sep 2013, 9:42 pm

Chosen to Cheer
Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
A young boy waited anxiously to hear what part he would have in his 2nd grade school play. The boy had told his mother that every child in the class would be given a special part, but she didn't want to overly encourage him. She knew he probably wouldn't get a speaking part and feared that he might become discouraged. Therefore, she simply smiled and kept her worries to herself.
It was a good thing she did. The next day when her son came home from school, she was standing by the door.  As he approached, he was beaming from ear to ear. "Did you get a part?" she asked, trying to mask her surprise. "Oh, yes—I did!" "Well, what part did you get?" his mother wanted to know. "You won't believe it, Mom!" he responded, "I've been chosen to cheer!"
Wow, what an attitude! I don't suppose this is the answer his mother was expecting to hear, but I'll bet she was humbled by it and very proud of her son.
Wouldn't it be terrific if we were a lot more like that little boy? Oh, how different our homes would be then . . . not to mention our churches.
What would the church be like if people came to cheer everyone else on? Sunday morning would be more like a pep rally than a funeral procession; instead of spilling out our own problems and frustrations, victories and successes, we would be quiet and listen, and encourage others.
In Hebrews 10:24-25, the apostle Paul writes with fervor, "and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."
The word for encourage in this verse is parakaleo, which means "to put courage into another, or to cheer on another." How well do you do that?
I suggest that you pick out some pom-poms! You have been chosen by God, not only for a speaking part, but also for the role of applauding and cheering others as they run their race for Christ.
Hurry! . . . there's the starting gun!
Prayer Point: Pray that God will make you a better cheerleader for His name's sake . . . that you will not only lay aside your own desire for encouragement, but you will pray for God to show you people who could use your encouragement.
Extra Refreshment: Read Romans 16:1-27. Notice how the entire chapter is filled with encouragement and honor to those "to whom it is due."
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Post  Admin on Wed 11 Sep 2013, 10:03 pm

The Bubbles Are Always Right
Proverbs 14:12
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
I arrived on the Island of Malta while on a mission trip and stayed in a hotel which overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. The water was crystal clear and as I stood on the balcony, I could see the rocks at the bottom of the sea, shimmering as sunlight pierced the water.  
There was a swimming pool near the edge of the water, and I watched scuba divers taking lessons and practicing the elements of the sport. Before ever venturing out into the Mediterranean, they safely mastered the basics in a pool.
As I watched them, I was reminded of one of my seminary classmates who was an avid scuba diver. He regaled me with his adventures on several occasions when we were together.
One insight from his experiences made a profound impact on me. I learned that when a diver was deep under water, he could lose all sense of direction. He becomes weightless—no sense of gravity—and swimming without a natural source of light causes him to become disoriented and swim sideways, thinking that he is rising to the top.
In fact, a diver can become so convinced that his perception is correct that he continues to swim in the wrong direction until he eventually runs out of air and drowns. My friend then said that the only way to keep this from happening is to follow the direction of your air bubbles. "No matter how you feel, or what your brain may tell you," he said, "the bubbles are always right."
The world today is like a group of scuba divers: disoriented and void of direction. Absolutely convinced that their perception of right and wrong is correct, they ignore the warnings, while the bubbles of truth tell them otherwise. Instead, they willfully follow the directions of other disoriented expert divers who say, "Live like this . . . believe like this . . . think this way . . . go that way"—and all the while their tanks are running out of oxygen.
According to the book The Day America Told the Truth, 74% of Americans think it is all right to steal from people who they believe will not really miss it; 64% believe it is acceptable to lie, as long as no one gets hurt; 93% say they decide moral issues by their own experience or opinion. Choosing to ignore the bubbles, they swim to their deaths.
The Word of God has been given to us that we may have direction for living. As Christians, we have no excuse for moving through life disoriented; the verses in Scripture are like the air bubbles from a diver—they show the way up.
Make sure you're swimming in the right direction . . . just follow the "bubbles"!
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for showing you through His Word how to live a life that pleases Him, instead of leaving you on your own, disoriented, and on a path that leads to death.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 8:12-59.
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Sep 2013, 9:43 pm

Equal Blame—Equal Blessings
Galatians 3:28-29

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.
Pastor Gary Tolbert told the story of a little boy who had come to see the sights of Washington, D.C., with his parents. When they arrived at the Washington Monument, the boy was speechless as he stared at the obelisk stretching into the sky. He noticed a guard standing by and walked up to him, saying, "I want to buy it," pointing at the monument erected in memory of our first President.
The guard said, "Excuse me?" The child said a little louder, "I want to buy that!"
The guard bent down and asked, "Well now, just how much money do you have?" The boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter. The guard said, "I'm sorry son, that's not enough."
The boy replied, "I thought you'd say that," and he reached into his other pocket and pulled out a nickel and four pennies, holding his hand up to the guard for him to count the money.
The guard looked at the boy, then squatted down and said to the disappointed negotiator, "Listen son, you need to understand three things:  First, you don't have enough money to buy this thing—34 cents or 34 million dollars wouldn't be enough to buy the Washington Monument; second, you need to know that the Washington Monument is not for sale; third, you need to know that, if you are an American citizen, the Washington Monument belongs to you—it's already yours."
What a wonderful picture of Christianity! No matter what kind of person you are—red, yellow, black or white; tall or short; fat or thin; rich or poor; Baptist or Presbyterian; pessimist or optimist (and I could go on and on!)—you are an equal shareholder in God's kingdom if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ.
In fact, your half-dollar and your neighbor's fifty dollar bill are on equal par when it comes to earning favor with God—you can't tip Him. You can have His favor and all its rewards freely through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has already purchased salvation and offers it to you through the sacrifice of His Son.
Just as the Washington Monument belongs to both a little boy with pocket change and a millionaire businessman, so also the promises of God belong to every believer.
The truth is, we are equally deserving of condemnation, but by God's grace we have become equally endowed with an inheritance that will never pass away . . . claim it today!
Prayer Point: How are you reaching out to those who are different from you? In what ways are you developing relationships with men and women who have a different ethnic, social, or family background from you? Ask God to give you opportunities to develop strong relationships with those who are different from you outwardly, but share oneness with you in Christ.
Extra Refreshment: Read Matthew 20:1-16.
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Post  Admin on Mon 09 Sep 2013, 10:49 pm

A "Forever" Kind of Love
Romans 5:7-8
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
We find it easy to love people who are easy to love. In reality, we tend to like people who are like us. Furthermore, we assume that God's love is bound by the same standards. If He loves us, we assume it must mean that we are not all that bad. Not only is this view false in every way, it destroys a deep appreciation for the amazing beauty of God's love—that He loved the unlovely, and died for the unloving.
D. A. Carson illustrated the difference between our vision of love and God's:
Charles and Susan are walking down the beach, hand in hand. They've kicked off their shoes and the wet sand squishes between their toes. Charles turns to Susan, gazes deeply into her large hazel eyes and says, "Susan, I love you; I really do." What does he mean? If we assume he has decency and Christian virtue, the least he could mean is something like, "Susan, you mean everything to me. I can't live without you. Your smile paralyzes me from fifty yards; your sparkling good humor, your beautiful eyes, the scent of your hair—everything about you transfixes me . . . I really love you."
Or do his words I love you mean something like, "Susan, in spite of the fact that your nose is so large it belongs in cartoons, your hair has enough grease to lubricate an eighteen-wheeler, your knees make a camel look elegant, and your personality would scare Attila the Hun, I really love you."
I'm guessing Charles meant the first one! Yet this is how human love differs from God's love. When Romans 5 tells us that God "loved us," it doesn't mean that God looked down on us and said. "You mean everything to me. I can't live without you: your personality, your witty conversation, your beauty, your smile— everything about you."
Not a chance!  When God says, "I love you," He is saying, "Listen—your nose and greasy hair, your disjointed knees and selfish personality, your wretched sinfulness—all make you disgustingly unattractive to Me. But I love you because I have chosen to love you, through My Son, your Savior."
My friend, if you think you deserve God's love, even to the smallest degree, you will never feel totally secure in Him. You will live in perpetual fear that you might do something undeserving of His love and, if that is the case, then you definitely will!
Don't be afraid. This is the amazing beauty of God's love toward us, that "while we were still sinners, He died for us." The truth is, there isn't anything you can do that will ever change His mind. His love for you is the same yesterday, today . . . and forever!
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for loving you so much that He not only chose to die for you while you were still in your sins, but He chooses to love you every day in spite of your sin. Pray that He will give you strength to obey His command to love others in the same way He has loved you.
Extra Refreshment: Romans 5.
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Post  Admin on Fri 06 Sep 2013, 11:42 pm

The Gift of Pain
Revelation 21:3-4
 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
Many people believe that pain is God's one mistake.  Pain usually gets bad press, but have you ever considered that a wise God created us with an ability to feel pain for a reason?  
Dr. Paul Brand knew physical pain is a gift. As he studied the suffering of people infected with Hansen's disease—leprosy—he came to the conclusion that, at least in some cases, pain is vital to our survival.
While the word leprosy may conjure up images of stubby fingers and toes, ulcerated wounds, and distorted facial features, it is not the direct cause for these conditions. Because of pain deprivation, leprosy causes its victims to inadvertently destroy parts of their own bodies. Hansen's disease acts as an anesthetic, numbing the pain cells of hands, feet, eyes, ears, and nose.
While most diseases are feared because of their pain, Hansen's is deadly because its victims feel no pain. According to Dr. Brand, the destruction of facial features and limbs follows because the warning system of pain is gone.
In African and Asian villages where Dr. Brand worked, lepers reached directly into fire to retrieve a dropped potato. Patients at the hospital in India worked, gripping a shovel with a protruding nail; extinguished a burning wick with bare hands; stepped on broken glass. They simply couldn't feel the warning signals telling them to stop. 
No wonder Dr. Brand concluded his findings by saying, "Thank God for inventing pain." Pain is both an essential and unavoidable part of life; the art of living is learning how to respond to pain.    God uses pain in several ways: to correct us—"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:71); to construct us—". . . tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance,  proven character" (Romans 5:3b-4a).
Pain, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, communicates a clear message: something isn't right! The loss of a loved one, a job, physical ability, or any other type of earthly pain has been caused by Adam's sin in the garden, as well as our own sin.
But there is the remainder of the verse in Romans 5:4 that says, ". . . and proven character [produces] hope."  Our perspective has to go beyond our lives—it has to stretch out into eternity.  That gave the Apostle Peter hope and joy: 
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).
God has promised to set everything right; let God's gift complete its perfect work!  And while you wait, give Him glory—while you suffer, honor Him.  While you get that which you don't want—and don't get what you do want—exult in Him alone. God isn't finished . . . yet.
Prayer Point: Pray for strength to face the trials that stand in your way, and to withstand the painful consequences of living in a sin-struck world. Then thank God for the "hope" of eternal life.
Extra Refreshment: Revelation 21.

God Will Make a Way
Romans 15:13
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thousands of Christians in North America have heard one of Don Moen's praise songs which he wrote to affirm God's sovereignty in the Christian's life.  However, most Christians who have sung this song do not know the kind of hopelessness from which the lyrics came.
Don Moen was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from his mother-in-law; a tragic car accident had just occurred. Don's sister-in-law, Susan, her husband, and their four little boys were on an automobile trip when tragedy struck. They all were seriously injured, and their eight-year-old son was dying from his injuries.
As Don and his wife grieved and poured out their hearts to the Lord, they felt helpless to communicate any hope to Susan and Craig. Don recalls asking the Lord to help him express hope to the family members. In a very short time, Don scribbled some lyrics and composed the music for a chorus that, to this day, gives believers a deep sense of hope in the midst of difficult times. The lyrics read:
God will make a way,
Where there seems to be no way;
He works in ways we cannot see,
He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide,
Hold me closely to His side;
With love and strength for each new day,
He will make a way. He will make a way!
 
To put it simply, the only way to have hope is to have Him. The only way to have peace is to have Him.
As Paul reminds us in Romans 15:13, hope—as well as peace and joy—come through faith. It is true that many people claim to have faith in God during the good times, but when trials come their way, their faith is clearly lacking. In times when our vision of God becomes blurred by sorrow, the eyes of faith are more important than ever.
George Macdonald, author and mentor to C.S. Lewis, once wrote: "I think faith can never have a greater victory than when it will trust even in the midst of darkness and doubt and temptation." What a great definition of victorious faith!—faith in our victorious God who never loses control of His people . . . and His planet.
The truth is, God's will for us isn't even nullified by our suffering, nor does it end at the grave. Our hope rests in the promise that our lives will stretch far beyond these few fleeting moments on earth, into an eternity of heavenly joy and satisfaction.
Are you willing to believe that God will make a way where there seems to be no way? He works in ways we cannot see . . . He will make a way!
Prayer Point: Faith in the promises of God naturally leads to a hopeful expectation of their fulfillment. Pray that God will increase your faith in Him, not allowing it to waver amidst difficult circumstances, but instead, causing it to grow stronger through them.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalm 42.
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Post  Admin on Wed 04 Sep 2013, 10:06 pm

Chosen to Cheer
Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
A young boy waited anxiously to hear what part he would have in his 2nd grade school play. The boy had told his mother that every child in the class would be given a special part, but she didn't want to overly encourage him. She knew he probably wouldn't get a speaking part and feared that he might become discouraged. Therefore, she simply smiled and kept her worries to herself.
It was a good thing she did. The next day when her son came home from school, she was standing by the door.  As he approached, he was beaming from ear to ear. "Did you get a part?" she asked, trying to mask her surprise. "Oh, yes—I did!" "Well, what part did you get?" his mother wanted to know. "You won't believe it, Mom!" he responded, "I've been chosen to cheer!"
Wow, what an attitude! I don't suppose this is the answer his mother was expecting to hear, but I'll bet she was humbled by it and very proud of her son.
Wouldn't it be terrific if we were a lot more like that little boy? Oh, how different our homes would be then . . . not to mention our churches.
What would the church be like if people came to cheer everyone else on? Sunday morning would be more like a pep rally than a funeral procession; instead of spilling out our own problems and frustrations, victories and successes, we would be quiet and listen, and encourage others.
In Hebrews 10:24-25, the apostle Paul writes with fervor, "and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."
The word for encourage in this verse is parakaleo, which means "to put courage into another, or to cheer on another." How well do you do that?
I suggest that you pick out some pom-poms! You have been chosen by God, not only for a speaking part, but also for the role of applauding and cheering others as they run their race for Christ.
Hurry! . . . there's the starting gun!
Prayer Point: Pray that God will make you a better cheerleader for His name's sake . . . that you will not only lay aside your own desire for encouragement, but you will pray for God to show you people who could use your encouragement.
Extra Refreshment: Romans 16. Notice how the entire chapter is filled with encouragement and honor to those "to whom it is due."
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Post  Admin on Tue 03 Sep 2013, 2:08 pm

Goodness to All
Matthew 5:43-44
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
God's goodness is experienced by all creation, and everyone who has ever lived has personally benefited from the grace of God in numerous ways. In Psalm 33:5b the psalmist wrote, "The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord."
Matthew 5:45b tells us that God "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Theologians refer to this as God's common grace. One author described it this way: "He gives both the righteous and the unrighteous food to eat, a fire to keep warm, water to quench thirst. He gives us all blue sky, a warm sun, green grass, and beautiful mountains."
If you were God, things would be very different, wouldn't they? If your neighbor ridiculed you for going to church, you would cause rain to fall on every lawn except his. In fact, you might even strike his yard with lightning and destroy his lawn altogether! But God doesn't do that. Your neighbor's lawn might look better than yours, or his kids seem healthier than yours, or his promotions come faster than yours, and his appliances last longer than yours!
God allows unbelievers to experience relationships that bring love and happiness. He gives them the thrill of excitement over the birth of a child, or the accomplishment of a life-long project. He gives them a sense of personal worth and an intuitive knowledge of right and wrong. Unbelievers can paint, sing, create, innovate; write symphonies, build skyscrapers, invent medical cures, design computer programs.
Sadly, David lamented in Psalm 107:8, "Oh, that men would praise the LORD for His lovingkindness." But they don't do that, do they?
They ignore His goodness and take it for granted. As Romans 1:21 says, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Yet God continues to pour out his lovingkindness even on those who will not acknowledge Him, nor give thanks to Him.
Did you know that we are to do the same? As Christ's ambassadors in this world, we are to show the same love and goodness to our enemies as God shows to us. Romans 5:7-8 declares, "For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In other words, we are not to wish for the destruction of unbelievers, but rather to pray for their salvation. We are not to think hateful thoughts of them and condemn them in our minds, but rather forgive them for any grievance against us, and show them the love of Christ.
 Loving our enemies is not an easy task, but it is what God did for us. If we are to be Christ's representatives in the world, we must learn to show "common grace" as He does . . . to all men.
Prayer Point: Pray that God will give you a merciful and gracious spirit toward unbelievers, rather than a prideful and domineering spirit which constantly says, "Look, I'm better than you." Thank God for loving you while you were  still an enemy and a sinner, giving you an example of how you are to love others.
Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 10:25-37.
Seriously!
Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Sir Isaac Newton, the English mathematician and physicist, is considered by many to be the greatest scientist who ever lived. He was accorded the honor of being the first scientist to be buried in Westminster Abbey.  
The well-known story relates that, on seeing an apple fall in his orchard sometime during 1665 or 1666, Newton conceived that the same force governed the motion of the moon and the apple. He calculated the force needed to hold the moon in its orbit, as compared with the force pulling an object to the ground. And that's how he discovered gravity!
Seriously, what you may not know is that it seems to have been due to the influence and tact of Sir Edmund Halley at his visit in November, 1684, that Newton undertook to attack the whole problem of gravitation, and practically pledged himself to publish his results: these are contained in the Principia.  The printing of the work was slow, and it was not published until the summer of 1687. The cost was borne by Halley, who also corrected the proofs, and even put his own research aside to press the printing forward. Historians call it one of the most selfless examples in the annals of science.
Newton began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence, while Halley received little credit for his work.  But he is known for discovering the comet named after him, which appears briefly every 76 years. However, one profound biographical fact regarding Halley stated that he didn't care who received credit for discoveries—his single mission in life was to advance the cause of science . . . and he did.
It seems there is an ever-growing problem in the church today, stemming from confusion surrounding our mission in this world. Why exactly are we here? The members of the early church seemed to have had this answer figured out. Gibbon noted in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that the most sacred duty of the new convert was to diffuse among his friends and relatives the blessing which he had received. Harnack, another church historian, wrote that the great mission of Christianity was accomplished by means of casual missionaries.
Why has it become so difficult in our own society to determine why we are here? George Barna, in his book What Americans Believe, revealed the results of a survey of people claiming to be born-again believers. When asked, "Do you have a responsibility to explain your religious beliefs to others who may believe differently?" less than 45% answered affirmatively.
This is a far cry from the passion and fervency displayed by our brothers and sisters who have gone before us, living and dying to advance the gospel. They took the great commission seriously . . . and it didn't matter who got the credit.
Have you committed your life to advancing the cause of Christ?  Think about it . . . seriously!
Prayer Point: If you do not come in close contact with unbelievers on a regular basis, then pray that God will bring someone into your life with whom you can share the Gospel. If you already have relationships with those who are unsaved, pray that God will not only open doors of opportunity for you to witness, but that He will give you boldness when that time comes.
Extra Refreshment: Read the book of Jonah 1 and witness God's incredible mercy on display, as well as His heart for the lost.
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Post  Admin on Sat 31 Aug 2013, 12:52 pm

God Will Make a Way
Romans 15:13
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thousands of Christians in North America have heard one of Don Moen's praise songs which he wrote to affirm God's sovereignty in the Christian's life.  However, most Christians who have sung this song do not know the kind of hopelessness from which the lyrics came.
Don Moen was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from his mother-in-law; a tragic car accident had just occurred. Don's sister-in-law, Susan, her husband, and their four little boys were on an automobile trip when tragedy struck. They all were seriously injured, and their eight-year-old son was dying from his injuries.
As Don and his wife grieved and poured out their hearts to the Lord, they felt helpless to communicate any hope to Susan and Craig. Don recalls asking the Lord to help him express hope to the family members. In a very short time, Don scribbled some lyrics and composed the music for a chorus that, to this day, gives believers a deep sense of hope in the midst of difficult times. The lyrics read: 
God will make a way, 
Where there seems to be no way; 
He works in ways we cannot see, 
He will make a way for me. 
He will be my guide, 
Hold me closely to His side; 
With love and strength for each new day, 
He will make a way. He will make a way!
To put it simply, the only way to have hope is to have Him. The only way to have peace is to have Him.
As Paul reminds us in Romans 15:13, hope—as well as peace and joy—come through faith. It is true that many people claim to have faith in God during the good times, but when trials come their way, their faith is clearly lacking. In times when our vision of God becomes blurred by sorrow, the eyes of faith are more important than ever.
George Macdonald, author and mentor to C.S. Lewis, once wrote: "I think faith can never have a greater victory than when it will trust even in the midst of darkness and doubt and temptation." What a great definition of victorious faith!—faith in our victorious God who never loses control of His people . . . and His planet.
The truth is, God's will for us isn't even nullified by our suffering, nor does it end at the grave. Our hope rests in the promise that our lives will stretch far beyond these few fleeting moments on earth, into an eternity of heavenly joy and satisfaction.
Are you willing to believe that God will make a way where there seems to be no way? He works in ways we cannot see . . . He will make a way!
Prayer Point: Faith in the promises of God naturally leads to a hopeful expectation of their fulfillment. Pray that God will increase your faith in Him, not allowing it to waver amidst difficult circumstances, but instead, causing it to grow stronger through them.
Extra Refreshment: Psalms 42. 

A Message for Prodigals
Psalms 37:23-24
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.
Maria and her daughter Christina lived in a small hut in a Brazilian village. Christina's father had died when she was just an infant, and her courageous mother had done her best for the child. Maria made her living by cleaning houses, though it provided very little income.  The day came when Christina was finally old enough to earn her own way.
Instead of finding a small job in the village where she had grown up, she dreamed of going to the great city, Rio de Janeiro, and seeking an opportunity there. But when she told  her mother of her desires to leave the village, a look of fear came into Maria's eyes and she said, "The streets are cruel, Christina. There's nothing for you there."
Maria knew that if her daughter went to the city, the only work she would find at her age would lead to prostitution. That's the reason Maria's heart was broken the morning she found her daughter's pallet empty. She knew where Christina had gone, and she feared she may never see her again.
Maria immediately gathered some clothing and boarded a bus for the city. When she arrived in Rio De Janeiro, she went to a small drug store, stepped into a photography booth, and made as many pictures of herself as she could afford. Armed with her bag of clothing and a purse full of little black and white photographs, she headed for the back streets, entering bars, hotels, and nightclubs—anywhere prostitutes gathered.  She taped her picture to walls, mirrors, bulletin boards, and bathroom stalls, in hopes that her daughter may see one of them and read the message written on the back. 
Tired and broken hearted, out of money and photos, Maria gave up the search and rode the rickety bus back to her village without ever finding Christina.  The mother wept for her lost daughter.
Months later, Christina glanced across the lobby of a hotel to see a familiar face taped to a mirror.  Recognizing it, she quickly ran to the mirror and pulled the picture off. It was indeed her mother. With trembling hands she held it, staring at her mother's face.  Turning the photo over, she noticed the writing on the back. When she read the words, her throat burned and tears began to stream down her face. The note said, "Wherever you are, whatever you have become, I will forgive you. Please come home."
So... Christina did.
What a beautiful picture of true mercy; yet this is merely a glimpse of the mercy which God shows to us. Regardless of all the thousands of times we sin, the thousands of choices we make which are contrary to His Word—He continually pursues us and loves us.
Even when we run away, He searches for us, leaving a message that never changes:  "Wherever you are, whatever you have become, I will forgive you." And you can count on it... He will!
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord that no matter how many times you have failed—and will fail—Him, He never stops forgiving and loving you. Pray that He will help you to love others with that same kind of love.
Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 15—an incredible illustration of God's mercy toward His children.
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